Those who live in Helper or have traveled through it anytime in the last week have seen first hand the problem in the air.
Heavy plumes of smoke from the nearby Seeley Mountain Fire that sparked off a week ago in Huntington Canyon are being blown in daily by sometimes heavy north winds causing a multiplicity of problems.
“We have been stuck inside for a week now,” said Helper resident Sonja Blackham, a mother of two. “The kids are so stir-crazy.”
That’s not the only problem Blackaham and her family are facing.
“Even when the smoke isnвЂ™t as bad, the ash covers the inside of the windows. We have to keep the windows open because we donвЂ™t have air conditioning,” she said. “We’re breathing that in.”
Two reverse 911 calls have been made in Helper and Spring Glen in the last three days alone. The last one, at 4:22 p.m. Tuesday, notified residents that wind patterns had shifted causing heavy smoke in the area and that there was no threat of flames nearby.
Helper City Councilman Rob Bradley, who also manages the Helper City pool, has had to close the pool on a couple of occasions because of unhealthy conditions.
“Today (Tuesday) was really awful. We closed the pool because of it,” he said.
At last night’s fire update meeting at the Carbon County Fairgrounds, David Cunningham of the Southeastern Utah District Health Department gave specific instructions to residents of both counties.
“If you already have respiratory problems, youВ are at a higher risk of having more problems,” he said. “We advise everyone to stay inside as much asВ possible over the next while and limit the amount of dust and smokeВ you are around.”
With temperatures reaching the mid-nineties around the two-county area, some residents are being forced to go without the comfort of cool air.
“I just turned off my swamp cooler because it’s just re-circulating the smoky air,” said Beulah Picco, an elderly Helper resident.
With the Seeley Fire at only 15 percent containment at last report, it remains to be seen just how long residents of not only Helper, but many towns and cities in the area will be affected by the smoky conditions.
In the meantime, though, as Blackham puts it, “itвЂ™s probably worse than smoking cigarettes because at least they have a filter.”